By RYAN LAVNER
Masters: Rory McIlroy. Entering 2016 with plenty of motivation, the former world No. 1 should be in fine form after logging seven starts before Augusta. There is always a concern that he wants the Slam too much, but he has trended in the right direction over the past few years at the Masters.
U.S. Open: Jason Day. He’s going to win an Open eventually, and beefy Oakmont should set up perfectly for his power game. In five Open starts, he has finished inside the top five three times.
Open Championship: Dustin Johnson. He has better imagination than he’s given credit for, and he’ll need it at Troon. Don’t forget, he was in good position to atone for his U.S. Open collapse before a 75-75 finish at St. Andrews. Still, he has four top-15s in his last six Opens.
PGA Championship: McIlroy. Predicted a monster year for the former world No. 1, and two majors certainly fits the bill. He typically plays well at the PGA after heating up during the summer – all but one finish inside the top 20 – and this year should be no exception.
By RANDALL MELL
Youth will distinguish itself again in 2016 with the majors swept by four 20-something stars.
In a dreamy major season, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day will all win majors.
Masters: McIlroy claims the career Grand Slam, becoming the sixth player in history to do so. He joins Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods sweeping the four majors in men’s golf.
McIlroy’s game is built to win at Augusta National, with his power, his ability to score on the par 5s and to hit short irons into tough hole locations. He wasn’t quite ready to win at Augusta National in 2011, when he lost a four-shot lead in the final round shooting 80. He will be teeing it up for the eighth time in the Masters next spring, and he’ll be coming off back-to-back top-10 finishes at Augusta National.
U.S. Open: Spieth makes it back-to-back U.S. Open titles with a victory at Oakmont, where his great putting stroke will set him apart. Oakmont’s challenging greens require the kind of touch, skill and attitude Spieth will bring.
Open Championship: Fowler steps up to claim his first major at Royal Troon in Scotland. He won on some big stages in 2015, beating strong fields with terrific closing efforts at The Players Championship, the Scottish Open and the Deutsche Bank Championship. Royal Troon’s the place to do it. It has a history of crowning first-time major winners.
PGA Championship: Day won’t leave 2016 disappointed at the majors. He’ll claim another PGA Championship. His fate at Baltusrol will depend on how the PGA sets up the course, whether it goes more USGA than PGA in fairway and rough setup, and whether that setup allows Day to shrink the course with his driver. Either way, Day should be at another level again as defending champ.
By REX HOGGARD
While another historic run at the single-season Grand Slam seems unlikely, the play of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day in the last few years suggests a multi-major winner in 2016 is not out of the question.
Masters: McIlroy, who rebounded from an injury-impacted year to win the European Tour’s season finale in 2015, will take the year’s first major at Augusta National, where he’s finished in the top 10 the last two years and took a four-stroke lead into the final round in 2011.
U.S. Open: Oakmont Country Club may be the most demanding test in the U.S. Open rotation, but Dustin Johnson has shown that he is at his best when the conditions are most challenging. The bomber finally avoids another costly miscue to win his first major.
Open Championship: After missing last year’s Open at St. Andrews, McIlroy heads to Royal Troon in search of redemption and etches his name into the claret jug for the second time to cap another spectacular year.
PGA Championship: The last time the year’s final major was played at Baltusrol, Phil Mickelson took the title in 2005, and it will be another creative southpaw, Bubba Watson, who will win this year’s PGA Championship and expand his major portfolio.
By WILL GRAY
Masters: Patrick Reed. If he’s going to take home Player of the Year honors, as I predicted earlier this week, he’ll need to include a major in his trophy haul. What better place to do it than Augusta National, just down the road from the school he led to two NCAA titles and a course where his tight draw can be carved to perfection. A post-round ceremony where he receives the green jacket from former Ryder Cup teammate Jordan Spieth will be icing on the cake.
U.S. Open: Hideki Matsuyama. Make no mistake, Oakmont will take a toll on the field this summer. But few players are as well-equipped to weather that particular storm as Matsuyama, whose tee-to-green consistency will be a huge asset on the penal layout. Oakmont has been the site of surprise victories from foreign players each of the last two times it has hosted the U.S. Open, and that trend will continue when Matsuyama leaves with the trophy.
Open Championship: Louis Oosthuizen. Perhaps no other player outside of Angel Cabrera more efficiently saves his best play for the majors. Oosthuizen rekindled his game this past year, highlighted by back-to-back runner-up finishes at Chambers Bay and St. Andrews that seemingly came out of nowhere. The South African seems to have trouble shaking the injury bug, especially relating to his back, but when he is healthy he is among the very best ball-strikers around. That talent should shine at Royal Troon, where he will avenge last year’s playoff loss and lift the claret jug for the second time.
PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy. Just like the San Francisco Giants, McIlroy prefers to play for the Wanamaker Trophy in even-numbered years. After triumphs in 2012 and 2014, McIlroy will win his third PGA at Baltusrol before representing Ireland in the Olympics. While the year begins with talk of the “Big Three” – McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – only the Ulsterman will notch a major win in 2016.